Recently I wrote a blog post about the difference between using “rule of thumb”-type thinking (called “heuristics”) to make decisions based on limited but indicative information, versus deeper-level analytics to really explore all aspects of a decision. Both are useful, depending on the context of the decision one needs to make.
Well, it got me thinking about baseball. Naturally.
If you follow baseball at all, then you probably know that over the last 20 years the professional game has seen a statistical revolution that is unmatched in any other sport. Virtually every decision you see a baseball manager make, these days, is data-driven: pitching changes, pitch counts, pitch selection, right-handed versus left-handed, where the infielders stand, where the outfielders stand, base running. Not many of these things are decided on gut instinct or “feel” anymore – they are mostly decided by analytic software that is populated with thousands of pieces of data on every batter, pitcher, runner, fielder, and game situation. Why? First, baseball is a game in which many different things happen on every single play – to the casual fan, it’s not visible, but every batted ball, player movement, and result can be collected and analyzed for location, speed, and distance. Second, baseball is slow. It affords a manager plenty of time – between pitches, between innings – to make adjustments, change players, move people around, etc.
Of course, sometimes baseball is fast. When? Baseball is fast when the ball has been hit in a gap to the outfield, and three runners are racing around the bases, and a throw must be made to the correct base – on target, and immediately. In those moments, no analytics can help you. The manager’s only hope is that he positioned the right players in the right spots, and that the players are properly trained to execute under pressure.
You’re thinking, hey, where’s the baseball-to-business analogy? Here it is. You can’t set up your business properly for success without analyzing data. And then, you use that data to develop systems that you think will work. Businesses who try to scale, expand, acquire, or sell without having good, functioning systems, training, and controls will not necessarily fail, but they will underperform and become devalued in the marketplace. That’s because a lack of well-informed systems is bound to create an inability to execute at key moments. Talk to your trusted advisor about making sure you are prepared for the next big play in your business.